Performance psychologists do not necessarily equal performance psychology.

The psychology of performance, as a branch of psychology pretty much is what the title suggests a domain within psychology that focuses on the way the mind works (or needs to work) to be able to perform at a high level when it counts time after time. The ability to perform, when it matters is a key characteristic of many performance environments within human endeavour including: sport, business, surgery, the emergency services, the military, and aviation. Those performers who

Shooting yourself in the foot: How anger and aggression aimed at sports officials impacts upon perfo

This weekend has seen an unprecedented step taken by amateur football referees in the UK. 18-year old local football referee Ryan Hampsen has led the ‘striking’ of over 2000 local league referees in response to the foul and abusive behaviour they are often exposed to on a weekly basis. This has been further compounded by the high profile case of Leandro Bacuna. The Aston Villa utility player was sent off in last week’s game against Derby County for pushing the linesman follow

Decision-making training in sport

Performance in sport is characterised by the ability to make the right decisions under pressure. Indeed, if you consider sports currently in the headlines with the FIFA 2014 Football World cup in Brazil, the All England Tennis Championships at Wimbledon, and the recent Cricket Test Match Series between England and Sri Lanka effective decision-making in all three is key. However, historically the notion of the ‘right’ decision has not been well articulated. In the UK in partic

Conducting research in professional sport: What’s in it for the athlete?

There is an increasing demand for more ecologically valid research within sport psychology. This is particularly true when exploring elite sport and sports performance. However, the stumbling block here for researchers has consistently been access to participants. I have listed to many colleagues lament the fact that both professional and elite sports performers are unwilling to participant in their studies. This issue is further complicated by the difficulties in developing

Momentum and collective collapse in sport

With the 4th One Day International (ODI) taking place between England and Sri Lanka today I thought I would take the opportunity to reflect on the previous two games. Both games have been incredibly one-sided, but not to the same team. In the previous game England bowled Sri Lanka out for 67, and won by 10 wickets (for any non-cricket fans that is a low score and big winning margin). But in the ODI before that Sri-Lanka bowled England out for 99 after scoring 256-8, which was

What will it take for England to be mentally tough enough to win the world cup?

Ok, I know this is a long shot, but what would it take for England to win the World cup? It could be argued that the current squad are not as talented as previous squads, but like any of the 32 teams in the finals they have a chance. So what exactly are the mental challenges that England need to overcome? The first one that jumps to mind when talking about England in major tournaments is wining penalty shootouts. Unfortunately England have a tendency to self destruct. But is

What is the shelf-life of a sports team?

The debacle that was the performance of the England cricket team in Australia has brought to the fore the issue of the longevity of sports teams. There is no doubting that the England cricket team were once an excellent team both in terms of individual performances, and in terms of the performance of the team. However, by the end of the Ashes series there was pretty wide spread recognition that this current team had reached the end of the line. The questions now being posed i

A little confidence goes a long way

The Ashes are back, the great cricket rivalry between England and Australia recommences in earnest this week in Brisbane, Australia. It only seems like earlier this year that the two teams were battling for supremacy . . . . . wait a minute . . . . it was earlier this year! The current year presents an anomaly regarding the contest between the two nations. To avoid a clash between the Ashes and the Cricket world cup in Australia in 2015 the latest round of the contest in Aust

5 reasons to pursue a career in sport psychology

Recently I have attended a number of psychology careers events for students looking to apply for University courses. Every time at these events I get asked the same two questions without fail ‘are there any jobs in sport psychology?’ and ‘what is it like to be a sport psychologist?’. Regarding the first question my answer is always the same, yes if you are willing to work hard. I firmly believe that any individual who is driven and motivated, and is willing to put in extra ef

Winning, losing, and momentum in sport

Watching the American Football over the weekend I was particularly interested in the references to winning and losing streaks. This concept is different to but not vastly dissimilar to the ‘form guides’ that are often reported on sport in the UK. Look at many versions of football league tables for example and you will also see a six game form guide (won, lost, drawn). So is form important in determining future performance? Can a team get on a roll and become more likely to wi

How long does it take to build a new team?

The sacking of Paulo Di Canio yesterday, by English Premier League team Sunderland Football Club, got me thinking about how long Head coaches/managers should be given by team/franchise owners before they look to make a change? There are a number of perspectives from which the timing of this sacking can be viewed. In terms of the 2013-14 season Di Canio has been sacked after just 5 games, or 36 days. In total Di Canio had been manager of Sunderland for 4 ½ months and in that t

Sport psychologists – are they all the same?

Following a conversation with the Head of Science and Medicine at a professional sports club last week I have been considering whether sport psychology is all the same, and as a result whether some practitioners are better suited to some environments over others. This emerged following the conversation I mentioned previously. The Head of Science and Medicine contacted me for a recommendation for a consultant to work with some of the clubs first team professional players. It t

Performance and mental health: Why they are inextricably linked

In the world of performance sport and the drive for results a focus on good general mental health is often lost. In the rush to deliver key mental skills, to test performers under pressure, or to enhance decision-making skills general mental health can get overlooked. This is a concern as a robust bedrock of good mental health is fundamentally important to successful performance, and success over the long term. The pressures associated with performance at the higher levels ar

Five ways a sport psychologist can help to improve performance

I still regularly come across the perception of sport psychologists as practitioners who ‘fix’ broken players or help to rebuild individuals once things have gone wrong. However, as all practitioners know this is only a small part of what we do (as sport psychology consultants). Indeed speak to the physical practitioners such as physiotherapists and doctors in sport and they will argue that prevention is much better that cure. This is true of the mental side of performance. E

Success, Attribution and decision-making

I have watched the events of the last few days in sport play out with some interest. In particular Laura Robson’s fantastic victory against Venus Williams in the first round of the WTA event in Rome 6-3, 6-2; the sacking of Roberto Mancini by Manchester City Football club, and Tiger Woods latest tournament victory. With Robson the thing that struck me was that while she talked about how she had played in the post-match interviews it seemed to be more about the reasons why Ve

Sport psychology, confidence tricks and the dark arts

I read with interest the comments of Paulo Di Canio, the head coach/manager of Sunderland football club in the English Premier League at the weekend. Di Canio is quoted as saying that he knows all he needs to know about getting inside players minds. He also stated that he was not going as far as saying that sport psychologists should not work in football, although I think there was a big ‘but’ behind that statement that spoke volumes. I am not sure if this speaks of an insec

Prevention is better than cure

While there is starting to be some change in the way that psychologists are used in sport, in my experience it is still predominantly in an attempt to ‘cure’ some specific performance issue. I find this approach interesting as, for most sports performers, that big final or opportunity comes along very infrequently. As a result, finding out that you were not good enough or couldn’t cope after the event is not particularly useful. Indeed for many individuals and teams who squan

Repairing broken relationships

Successful performance in sport is all about effective relationships. Whether these are between teammates, the coach and the athlete, or between players, coaches and the support staff the quality of these relationships impacts upon the overall performance that is produced. Indeed, there is a lot of research and applied guidance regarding developing effective relationships in teams (team building) and developing the coach-athlete relationship. The answer to this in one sense i

How to measure effectiveness as a sport psychologist

Increasingly in a range of spheres of life professionals are required to measure, report, and demonstrate impact. This is seen as how the things that they do, and the services that they provide result in a change for the better. In funded sport in the UK there is an increasing focus on ‘a return for our money’ approach where sports and teams have to demonstrate to the purse string holders just how each service that is employed or purchased helps to achieve the sports strategi

Is it time for sport and exercise psychology to go their separate ways?

It is interesting that in the UK, and many other countries, the psychology of sport is grouped with the psychology of exercise. This takes place both in terms of the educational training routes offered and the professional/academic literature that underpins these educational routes. This is interesting as you can argue that much of exercise psychology shares significant links with the area of health psychology, you could even argue that exercise and health psychology are bett